Search for missing MAS 777 set to enter third day

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The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200 has grown to include over 20 aircraft and 30 ships as the second day of the operation comes to a close.

The latest asset to join the search is a Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion operated by the US Navy, according to the Twitter account of the service’s Seventh Fleet.

The Orion’s arrival followed a press briefing by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur at 13:00 local time. Malaysian air force chief Rodzali Daud gave the number of air assets involved in the search at 22. These include fixed wing aircraft and helicopters from Malaysia, as well as assets from neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.

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The officials also revealed that they have extended the search area far beyond the last point of contact with MH370. It now includes peninsular Malaysia itself, as well as waters off the country’s west coast near the city of Penang. This is consistent with officials’ view that the aircraft might have attempted to turn back.

During the briefing, Daud admitted that he was “baffled” by the lack of a distress signal from MH370 before its disappearance.

A subsequent press conference at 15:00 was curtailed after only three minutes, with officials saying that there is no further news to report. The next press conference is five hours later at 20:00 this evening – although Malaysian officials had been giving updates roughly every two hours.

Separately, Vietnam has also deployed aircraft and ships to search its territorial waters.

Conditions in the search area are reportedly fair, but there is a very real danger that any debris – if indeed the aircraft did crash in the sea – may have scattered owing to currents and wind.

The last known location of MH370 was approximately midway between the Malaysian town of Kota Bahru and the southernmost tip of Vietnam. Malaysian air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 01:30 on the morning of Saturday 8 March.

The 777-200 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew.